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4 June 2001, 07:47 pm
Dubois Retires
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Vendée Globe 2000

If the boundary line between the Indian and Pacific Ocean is at the longitude of Tasmania at 150 degrees East, then the four front runners in the Vendée Globe 2000 fleet have already washed their foredecks with water from the biggest and most desolate...
Vendée Globe 2000
Dubois Retires
By Philippe Jeantot

If the boundary line between the Indian and Pacific Ocean is at the longitude of Tasmania at 150 degrees East, then the four front runners in the Vendée Globe 2000 fleet have already washed their foredecks with water from the biggest and most desolate ocean in the world - 5412 miles of it. No oasis of land, hope of refuge or assistance is given by this vast expanse of liquid desert. Here is where this race is reduced to its basic concept: solo, non-stop, without assistance.

In the Pacific Ocean, the centre of each depression draws close to the icefield, and gives the boats who are sailing in the North of the depression favourable winds from behind and the opportunity to negotiate the bend to the South as well. This means that the skippers can narrow the distance travelled due to the earth's curved surface. However, in doing this, the skippers skirt near the South Pole and navigation becomes more and more difficult in freezing temperatures and with the constant risk of encountering drifting icebergs. Although the fleet did not descend below 50 degrees South in the Indian Ocean, they will all be crossing this barrier in the Pacific.

In the first Vendée Globe there was no Southern latitude boundary in the rules and pushed on by a racing demon, we were all cutting corners and descended very low indeed. It became a real Russian roulette as we slalomed in between the icebergs in dense fog. For each edition of this race, the Southern limits have been raised further North. This year the skippers have several way points at 57 degrees South, which they must leave to starboard. In between these fictitious markers they can choose to descend lower and follow a more direct, shorter route, but they must climb North to round the next way point. These marks are in place to ensure that the boats avoid the most dense patches of ice flow (off the Ross Sea).

Thierry Dubois (Solidaires) announced today by fax that after the breakdown of his main alternator and the failure of his batteries, he has decided to make a stop in New Zealand to effect the necessary repairs. Thierry commented that "my intuition tells me as a skipper that it wouldn't be at all prudent to head into the Pacific Ocean, the longest and most difficult stretch of water, with the boat in this condition." Therefore he has decided to stop in New Zealand, repair and set off. "It's a disappointment not to be able to finish this circumnavigation within the rules."

As for the battle in the rankings, Marc Thiercelin has moved into fourth place now that Dubois has bowed out, and is intent on searching out a way to pass Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher). He strongly asserted in a fax to the Race HQ, "In 2-3 days we'll be in the Pacific Ocean, and from that moment I have 15 crucial days ahead of me to try and come back. I cannot make a single mistake in this time." In the depression to come, he knows his boat can do well. He covered 135 miles in 6 hours on the 23rd December in winds of up to 50 knots. "I just stick up more sail. I get the brunt of the action but it has to be that way if I'm to keep up the chase."

There are still 50 or so days left of this race and 11500 miles to go to the finish.

Ranking polled at 1000UTC 26/12/00

Boat Skipper Speed DTF DTL
1 PRB Michel Desjoyeaux 13.8 11435 0
2 Sill Matines & La Potagere Roland Jourdain 12.3 11518 83
3 Kingfisher Ellen MacArthur 11.6 11730 295



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